Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kayak fishing, life jackets, and respecting authority

I went out fishing with a few buddies today in the kayaks. Fishing was slow, while the wind was anything but. I had just caught two fish in two casts (combined total 9 inches) and then saw my least favorite person on the water (besides jet ski-ers, who are in their own terrible category): the marine patrol.

I said to one of my buddies, "He's going to ruin my day." And I was right. He asked to see our lifejackets, fishing license, and whistle or other "personal noise making device."

I repeated back to him, "I have no personal noise making device, and one of the two kayaks has a life jacket in them."
My other kayak, in use by a friend from church, was the winner. Not having a life jacket is now a 90 dollar fine. Just went up last weekend. Lovely.

He also issued us warnings for not having a whistle/personal noise making device.
To make matters worse, I actually didn't have my fishing license with me either. It was in the car, in my wallet. So I got a 70 dollar fine, which will be taken away when I go to the clerk of the court and show him I do in fact have a license. Crazy. I felt a pang of conscience and checked just to make sure I wasn't assuming my lifejacket was there. Fortunately it was in the front compartment. Now I won't have that on my conscience!

The morals of the day:

1.) Get a stinkin whistle, another life jacket and put your fishing license with your fishing lures. What good does it do you in your wallet if you leave that in the car?

2.) People in positions of authority like to be respected. Marine patrols have a clause that allows them to give a "non-refundable" 70 dollar ticket for folks who don't have their licenses with them. Apparently it is up the marine patrol's discretion. Glad I was decently respectful. Now I'm only out a trip to courthouse and 5 bucks or so. And half the other fine.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The bible and The Shack

Someone made my day a few days ago when he said, "Geoff, I've been bringing the bible to work and trying to read some on my breaks. How do you do choose what to read?"

Hearing that was better than catching 10 oversize snook in a day on lures. It really was. By the way, don't comment that I look like a dork in the picture with my top button buttoned. I already know I do. But safety first.

But this phone call was especially welcome on a week which I started reading a book called The Shack. This is a book I don't recommend, but am reading it because so many people are. As far as a story goes, I've enjoyed it like the Da Vinci code. But here's an excerpt that exposes an underlying presupposition which I can't support:

"In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God's voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerners' access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book....."

Ultimately, the point is that God's Word is not sufficient for us today. We need some sort of direct personal encounter that is not limited to God's Word. What those look like I don't know (can they go against His written Word, should they even be tested against the written word?); I just started reading. Does God still speak through his written Word today? If so, how? How intelligent do I have to be read and understand the bible? Is it bad to have people help me interpret the bible? I'll be visiting these questions in future posts.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thoughts on Connar's Baptism

We had Connar baptized two weeks ago and it was quite a blessing. Its good to take time to reflect, which I've done little of. Most people don't contemplate or reflect; we just do. Anyhow, here are a few brief reflections I had "time for!"

1.) God the Great Hound dog
A number of family members came to Hope that Sunday. I was blown away by the mere fact that some of these folks weren't in a church at all only a few years ago. And now some of them not only go, but are getting connected. God had been faithful to His covenant promises to be a God to believers and their children. They were all baptized. We actually had 4 generations of Hendersons there that day. Pretty cool. One by one, He chased after such folks like the Hound of Heaven. And Henderson, by one translation book, means "Lover of Hounds."
Seriously, that's what I heard.

2.) A Sinner's Prayer?
I'm praying for Connar to never know a day where he doesn't know Jesus as His Lord and Savior. If he does have some sort of time or day experience, that's fine. But since there is actually no official "sinner's prayer" in the bible, I'm not going to tell Him he needs to pray one. Instead I'm always going to point Him to repent and trust and follow Jesus from day one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Olympics and Heaven

Sadly the Olympics are over. Yes, for me it was kind of a sad time. Although I didn't the enjoy diving, equestrian events, or trampoline (yes that is an event), I'll miss the excitement of Phelp's gold medal achievement, the character Usain Bolt, and the U.S. 4 X 400 relay. But like every Olympics before them, they came to an end. And I can guarantee you I won't be watching (or at least enjoying) gymnastics or swimming for another 4 years.

I do have a few thoughts on the Olympics as a whole. First of all, I think what we see with all of these nations competing, with all of the diversity, with all of the different colors and get-ups (including the full body spandex and head covering from the woman from Bahrain) is a common desire to win gold for their country. We see a common humanity, a common theme, a common desire, a common vision. I believe that comes from a common creator. There is a common human condition and drive: to live for and bring glory to something bigger than ourselves. There is something that even the strangest, farthest away, goofiest person has in common with myself (and I realize that person would say the same thing about me). Unfortunately people usually try to meet this need through work, hobbies, sports instead of Christ, His Church, and His Kingdom.

Next, I do see the Olympics as a picture of the New Heaven and New Earth. If you watch track on TV, especially in America, it is pretty much vanilla, or chocolate. For the most part, distance has white dudes, and the sprints have black dudes. But in the Olympics for instance, I noticed the sprints comprised pasty white Irishmen, darker skinned white folks, middle easterners, Hispanics, Slavic folks, Asians, African-Americans, Africans, Aussies, etc....It was a beautiful colleidoscope and a picture of heaven where there will be all tribes and tongues represented.

The athletes walking around the track with their flags draped around them reminds me of the picture of the New Heaven and Earth in Revelation 21:24 when "the nations will walk by its (New Heaven and Earth) light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it." Only this time, its the kings and queens of the track, bringing their flags (the best of their culture) to display before the world.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Stepping on Toes

I had the chance to preach at Seminole Presbyterian Church in Tampa yesterday. After the sermon there was a song of response, and I headed for the front door. This way one can "intercept" most folks as they try to get out the door. In addition, going forward immediately gives others in the congregation a chance to speak briefly with the pastor.

One man, approaching slowly with a cane, matter-of-factly spoke, "My toes are all bloody." To which I obviously responded something like, "Excuse me..did you have surgery recently...?"

He said, "No, they're bloody because you've been stepping all over them." Then I realized his metaphor.

That's really the kind of reaction I hope for when I preach: conviction. Most of the time people just say "Good sermon." Translation="I agreed with what you said." But preaching so that people agree with you is pretty much worthless. And expecting such preaching is equally as worthless.

Preaching should drive the hearer to repentance and faith. The final goal is not stepping on toes. The final goal is to have people see Christ, run to Him, rest in Him and respond to Him by offering Him their daily lives (Rom 12). But we don't do that when we simply "agree" with what was preached. We need to be challenged to repent, and that means hearing hard things. Not the things we do right, but those we do wrong. Not the things we agree with, but sometimes the things we don't.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I was so much BOLDER then....

One of my favorite Byrd's songs is called "My Back Pages." Like many of the The Byrd's songs, this one was written by Bob Dylan. The chorus really catches my attention. "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now." I think this accurately expresses the Christian frustration over a desire for growth in Christ-likeness while experiencing the same old struggles (Romans 7).

Perhaps even at times seeming to "lose ground." Both lead singer Roger McGwin and Dylan profess the Christian faith so perhaps that's what this song is really about.

If I were singing this about myself, (and believe me, it would be "to" myself and not to you, for your sake of course) I would change the word to "bolder" from "older." At least as far as evangelism goes, I was so much "bolder" then, I'm far less bold now.

What is the answer? Face paint to make me more intimidating? Working out more to put the fear of God in their eyes? A stroll down memory lane to dwell on my former "glory days" in college? Nope, just a deeper look at my sin and need for the gospel. I just have to be more diligent in this discipline. I think we all do.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gospel transitions

Someone sent me this helpful blog post on evangelism. I found this a good resource for how to steer conversations toward the gospel. There are plenty of ways to be intentional in our conversations without opening the conversation with "Do you know where you would go when you died?" Click here to see a number of gospel transitions worth thinking about.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jesus love for the Father and what it has to do with me

If we look at our prayers we find them fairly heavy on the supplication (requests) side. We tend to jump to our requests without thanksgiving or praise ever entering into the picture. Yet we are supposed to make requests known to God while giving thanks to Him (Phil 4:6-7). That we do sometimes. But rarely do we stop to give the Trinitarian God praise for who He is in Himself. The way Jesus taught us. Mostly it's tied to how he has provided. Not bad, but that's not praise. That's thanksgiving.

When I was reading through John 14 today, I saw something that I rarely if ever praise Jesus for. He says, "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father...." (John 14:30-31)

Sometimes I praise God the Father for His love for us. Sometimes I praise Jesus (God the Son) for his love for us. I don't think that I praise Jesus for His love for His Father. Yet his dying on the cross did not simply show the world he loved those whom he died for, the cross manifests His obedient love for His Father. That often gets overlooked. Jesus' love for His Father is revealed throughout the book of John and ought to move me to greater praise for Him.

Caveat: Now when I pray for the congregation, I simply make requests known. That's because in our liturgy (order of worship) we've already praised God, already confessed sin, already been assured of our forgiveness, already thanked God. Just wanted to make that clear.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Paddling alone vs. Paddling in a group

Yesterday evening I headed out fishing in hopes of getting on the "pre-storm" bite. I had caught 4 snook the night before, but was expecting even more on Monday evening due to the dropping barometric pressure. Unfortunately the snook weren't watching the same weather reports, and as it would so happen-they knew better than we did-we didn't get much of anything. I kept reminding the snook that they couldn't eat on Tuesday night; they needed to do so now. Of course they didn't listen to me, and wisely so. They will feed fine tonight! When I'm at home.

Anyhow, I was late getting to the launch site, and so had to paddle swiftly to catch up to my fishing buddy and his friend. The good news was that I was paddling with both the current AND the wind. The bad news was it seemed to take forever.

After catching two snook between the three of us (I did get one though), we headed in. This time we paddled together. Against a howling wind and swift current. Yet time passed by like O.J. driving in the express lane. We shot the breeze-quite a lot of "Pre-Fay" breeze there was to shoot-and had a great time paddling. I usually dislike paddling by the way; I view it as a necessary evil (kind of like vegetables) to get to my spots. But having the company made the journey so much easier. And actually enjoyable. I rarely fish by myself anymore if I can help it. And to me, fishing and life are basically interchangeable if not at the very least analogous.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Depressions and Hurricanes: Both Tropical and Real

Well the TV viewing in the Bay Area has to be at an all time high now. Rays are in first place, 4 and 1/2 games ahead of the Sox, the Bucs looked good in their preseason home opener (beating the other evil-though they're a bit worse because they cheat-team from Boston), and the Olympics. When was the last time you enjoyed watching swimming? Our DVR-has recorded hours and hours of quality TV-minus stuff like fencing and equestrian.

But now add one more thing to the mix. Fay. Tropical Storm and coming soon to a Florida near you-Hurricane Fay. I dislike Hurricanes as much as the next person. I really do. They kill people, destroy homes and property, and make planning committee meetings very hard (I chair one that was supposed to meet Tuesday night-the night we're supposed to meet Miss Fay.)

Yet despite their destruction, they do serve a purpose. I liken them to my struggle with anxiety/depression. I hate it, but what that struggle does is remind me that nothing really ultimately satisfies me outside Christ. When I'm truly anxious or depressed, not even the thought of getting stuff, fish, approval, security, materials, victory, church growth, "does anything" for me. All I want is to feel better and be close to Jesus. And of course when there is no anxiety/depression that is on the proverbial radar, I start to go back to the aforementioned areas. I can be dissatisfied and jealous of not having a bigger church, bigger house, or catching bigger fish. Yet God uses anxiety/depression (fortunately lately only in Tropical storm force, not Hurricane force) as a storm to make me come back and find rest/delight in Him alone.

Literal tropical depressions/storms/hurricanes can function in the same manner. Because of their uncertain path and certain power, we are reminded that we are only secure in Jesus. Houses can be destroyed, property lost, but our standing with Christ is secure. We often find other things to feel secure about like houses, savings, careers...But Hurricanes remind us that the great blessing of our homes is not where our security lies.

And if that is the case, we can be responsible (boarding windows and the like), and yet relax because we are truly secure. Sometimes God uses both literal and figurative storms/hurricanes to truly "protect" us from running to the places where we normally seek protection. Real protection is resting in the arms of a loving Father. They scare me, but they scare me right into His arms. God controls the storms. And He will direct them where they will go. But he does love His children. And like Aaron Nevill sang, "that may be, all I need to know."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A series of Fortunate Events

I wanted to follow up with the fish hook in the back. Had I never been hooked in the back, several little blessings would not have happened. And those wouldn't have happened had it not been for a myriad of other small "secondary causes." Let me explain.

We arrived to the walk-in clinic at exactly the appointed time. Tommy, my father-in-law, overheard a nurse saying, "Paging Dr. Boyce." He approached the front desk and said, "Is that Dr. Allan Boyce?" The nurse said "Yes, he has an office in this building." Dr. Boyce played quarterback while Tommy played Tight End in high school. Tommy knew his high school buddy was in town, but was/is still unfamiliar with the ability to "google" people. So it "had" to happen this way.

He went next door, met the doctor who he hadn't seen in 40 years, and they planned a dinner out. All because of the fish hook in the back. And then us arriving in time to hear, "Paging doctor Boyce." 5 minutes later and they wouldn't have had their reunion.

Tuesday was supposed to be the WHOLE Family dinner night out. But plans changed, and so Amy, Connar, my brother/sis-in law, and nephews went out to eat instead. At the Anna Maria city pier, I overheard Amy point out that someone else had a baby carrier (called Baby Bjorn). As that woman was walking out of the restaraunt, I made a comment about her Bjorn. We all began talking, and found that the husband was jealous of Connar's sleep aptitude. I was honored.

This dude was in town because he was hurt. Even though he lived at the beach. When he got better he and his family would be leaving. They were only staying in their house because he was hurt? We couldn't fit the pieces together. But he looked really familiar. That's because he was Scott Rolen, who plays 3rd base for the Toronto Blue Jays. He is on the D.L. with a hurt shoulder for the next week or so. Crazy.

All because I got hooked, we arrived at the Clinic just in time, I made a stupid comment, and a waitress came up and told us after they had left it was indeed Scott Rolen. A series of fortunate events, well most of them. But I'm sure glad I got hooked, though not at the time of course.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Getting hooked and God's Providence

Tuesday morning was like any other morning. That is until I put on my shirt. I was planning to cast along the beach for snook that probably wouldn't bite. But I first needed my fishing shirt. I mean, I do have standards.

As I put it on, it sounded like some velcro was caught against itself, which was in turn caught against some skin (how that could happen, I don't know; I already checked-there was no back hair). That's what it sounded and felt like. Until it started to hurt just a bit more than what that would have supposedly felt like.

I looked in the mirror and saw no velcro. I did however see a fish hook. So I went to Amy to ask her to pull it out. Unless it was too deep. Well it was. The barb was totally in my back. Believe me. The hook was a "worm hook" so that's the curve of the hook you see in the pic: not the barb.

So she freaked a bit, and got her usually non-squeamish mother. She called for back-up. My brother-in-law was willing to pull it out with pliers. You know, like a band-aid. But there is a difference between something adhesive and something with a barb in your flesh.

We looked on the internet for a diagram of how to do it at home. I wasn't really satisfied with the diagram so opted for the Walk-in clinic nearest the beach. I grabbed a pop tart, and we (my father-in-law) left around 8:00 am. My mother-in-law safety-pinned my shirt together so that it wouldn't move the hook in deeper. I looked a bit goofy. What's new?

They numbed my back up, stuck some needle thing against the barb, and came out with the hook. It had never been used, so there was no need for antibiotics. Just a tetanus shot (who ever remembers when your last one was?), 30 dollars up front, and I was out of there, and back by 9:30 am, just in time for a bowl of cereal. Much better idea than my bro-in-law trying to rip it out of my flesh.

Anyway, my negligence in removing all my hooks from my fishing shirts before they go to the wash (I remember not finding that particular hook) was what theologians call the "secondary cause." As was the fact that I didn't get up to FIRST look at the waves. There was no way I would have gone fishing that morning, which would have eliminated the need for a fishing shirt. Oh, it was certainly meant to be. God purposed that hook to be stuck there, even though my negligence in checking for waves and hooks were the secondary cause which God used to "stick me."

But if the story only stopped here. It has a better ending that will have to wait till tomorrow. All of which are a direct result of me getting hooked that morning. BTW-do you know what was the worst part? Hearing all of the "hook jokes." It really was. Each one was less clever than the one before.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Teach little tykes

I had the opportunity yesterday to teach our young communicants (those who want to join the church and receive full membership privileges and responsibilities). I created a curriculum intended to answer the five membership vows-which contrary to popular opinion-actually DO mean something. Since the wording of these vows is a bit hard to understand, perhaps even outdated, we spend time breaking down what these vows actually mean. I use the word "membership promise" since that probably means more to a 2nd grader.

Anyhow, the first of the four week course centers around the recognition of sin and hope of a Savior. I was astounded at how well these kids (ranging from ages 5-12) knew. I asked questions like, "Can you ever be good enough to make God like you, or like you more?"And the kids really had a great grasp on their need for the gospel.

I've seen youth that really couldn't answer questions like these. It really shows me how important it is to spend quality time discipling your children, no matter how young.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Lessons from Baseball

I'll be on vacation for some days next week, so I shan't blog as much as I would like. Probably. Anyhow, here is my article from the Bradenton Herald. I like it. Its an expanded thought of a sermon illustration from a few weeks ago. I think they actually put my desired title on the article. I guess there's a time and season for everything, eh? How Ecclesiastes of me. Click here to read it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Gruden, Garcia, and Geoff

Well I woke up to a piece of really good news on Thursday morning. Amy, holding Connar in her hands, said, "Guess who got Favre?" I assumed it was Tampa, so I begrudgingly said as such. But to my astonishment, I found out the N.Y. Jets had saved the day.

We already have a 38 year old Pro Bowl QB. We don't need another who doesn't know the offense and doesn't feel it is his job to mentor a younger QB, (or four of them!). So I'm quite thankful for the Bucs not wasting any draft picks on Favre

There is a backlash however. Gruden wanted Favre. Clearly. How does that make the current QB, Jeff Garcia feel? Well I haven't asked him, but last time I checked, he was/is a human being. One who has been hurt. One who was benched last year so that he wouldn't make an extra million (under the guise of resting him for the play-offs). One who was not offered the contract extension he deserved for risking life and limb behind a shady (at best) offensive line. An offensive line that didn't give up many sacks because Garcia was so nimble. Period. Anyhow, I digress. As usual.

Gruden and Garcia cannot act like there has been no rupture in their relationship. I think that the Bucs and Gruden think Garcia should just act like nothing happened. But Garcia will be gone next year because Gruden and Garcia WILL NOT come together and talk about the issue. They'll ignore it. Like men. Like most people. But if they did come together, there would at least be a glimmer of hope (they're still made in the image of God).

Yet in the church, we have someone called Jesus. He gives us far more than a glimmer. He is the hope for those who come together to talk. He has destroyed the dividing wall of hostility that existed between Jew and Gentile. He has removed our transgressions as far as East is from the West. And I'm so thankful He has. Because as much as I dislike Gruden, I see myself in him more than I would like! Now I need to display this thankfulness in all of my relationships.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Honesty out in the open

Last night we resumed our Comm Group study on The Person of Jesus. It was great to get back to centering our meetings around study of God's Word, as opposed to just fellowship and outreach as we had been doing for the summer (though I did find such time quite profitable for both of the aforementioned purposes).

The main point of the study was the need to be honest before others, not wearing masks. That way your sin can be out in the open and can be addressed and confessed. Several different instances in the gospels picture Jesus praising or being extremely patient with honest responses. Even Nathaniel who said, "What good can come out of Nazareth?" elicited a praise from Jesus.

Time and time again we see the disciples messing up, but truly being honest and open with their thoughts. And so Jesus responds positively or gently. But the Pharisees continually keep their thoughts inside. And Jesus responds negatively and very sternly. He calls them hypocrites and children of the devil.

But as children of God, our sin and thoughts can't be kept hidden. How will others correct us when we're wrong? How will others be able to encourage or rebuke us? Yet we can be open and honest and we can be wrong. The one's calling us to account don't do so from a ladder or mountain top. They do so from the same level ground which we stand upon: Christ. He levels the playing field, enabling us to express what's in our hearts.

Friday, August 1, 2008

An interesting "conversation:" take four: TOP BAKERS DOZEN WAYS TO BRING ON "BAD" PERSECUTION

I'm positive this will be my last "An Interesting Conversation" post. At least I think I'm positive.

There is legitimate persecution that goes on because of our faith. Randy and I just got an email from someone wishing us to pray for her nieces. They have been taken away from anything church related. Books referring to Jesus have been removed and the kids have been prohibited from even saying a blessing over a meal. That's legitimate.

And then there's also persecution which really has more to do with personality and methodology than it does with our faith. I'm calling that illegitimate or "bad" persecution. Not the kind we can thank God for, as the disciples once did. So here's another Top Ten list, only I thought of more than ten. So its a Bakers Dozen. As I look back, I can see a number of mistakes I've made.

Top Baker's Dozen Ways to Bring On "Bad" Persecution

13.) Always have an answer for EVERY question that people ask RIGHT AWAY. Never say "I'll get back to you," even when you're not sure about something.
12.) Don't listen to them share what they believe. If you do you might actually contextualize the gospel and show how Jesus really is the answer to their idols.
11.) Consider their objections to Christianity as simple hurdles they can overcome by just thinking harder. I mean the likelihood of Jesus fulfilling all of the prophesies is like 1/10000.... if He really wasn't the messiah. That will get them!
10.) Make sure they believe that a Christian must vote Republican
9.) Make sure they believe that a Christian must vote Democrat
8.) Know as little as possible about current events, science, culture, etc...
7.) Don't have them into your home, out to dinner, or any outside activity. Don't share your life, only the message. And do not actually try to be their friend.
6.) Make sure that you share the gospel on your boss's dime. Make them pay for it.
5.) Don't take any interest in an anything that they take interest in. Don't watch any movie, read any book, listen to any music that might give you better insight into what they hold most dear
4.) Make sure to be dogmatic about really "important" things like a literal 6 day creation period. You can't budge on this one. But don't forget End Times, or where babies go when they die-when in doubt, assume the worst.
3) Make sure to address their behavioral issues first (abortion stance, sexuality, drugs) before getting to their heart idols.
2) Isolate a passage from the Koran and act like you know a ton about Islam
1)Never confess your sin, struggles, doubts, or weaknesses to them. They can't see you "sweat." Make sure they realize that the gospel is for them, and not for you anymore.